Please tell us something about you. When did you start to take pictures?
Well, i am 36 years old and live in Berlin. I started to take pictures quite late when I was 18. Photography quickly became a kind of addiction for me and I spent most of the time either shooting or working in the darkroom. In the beginning the darkroom was a kind of magical place for me – the moment you start to see the first contours of a picture on what was a piece of white paper seconds before – fantastic. In todays digital world there’s nothing comparable to this.
However, after finishing my studies I took less and less pictures as my job became increasingly important to me. At some point I sold my camera and all of my equipment. About 6 years ago I started to take pictures again. At first with a DSLR, a Nikon D70, but soon I switched to film and a Rangefinder Camera.
What was your first camera and what was the subject of your first photos?
My first camera was a Canon AE-1 with a 50mm lens. A friend gave this camera to me and I have been using it for many years. In the beginning i took pictures of all kinds of subjects without thinking too much about composition – At that time the most important thing for me was to get sharp and well exposed pictures. Looking back, I think i had no idea what would make an interesting photo when I started photography.
For some stupid reasons I sold the AE-1 to finance a Nikon F4 when I was at the university. Mostly for sentimental reasons I bought a used AE-1 with a 50mm lens a few weeks ago. I paid less than 50 Euros for both. I’ll never understand why people sell great cameras like this just to use digital plastic cameras instead.
Am I right when I will say that you are street photographer?
Hm, like most people I don’t like being pigeonholed but I guess you could probably say that. Of course as everyone else I also take pictures of my family, friends and other things of interest. Normally I don’t show these pictures to the public because they are either private or simply not good enough to be published.
Why did you choose this lifestyle? What is interesting in Street Photography for you?
I wouldn’t say I consciously decided to focus on Street Photography, it’s more that I stumbled into it by accident. I like walking in the streets and I like to watch people. At some point I started to capture the moments when I noticed something unusual or funny – just small details of daily lives. I’m not more creative than the average, therefore i don’t consider myself as an artist nor do I think that Street Photography in general is an art. I would rather call it „voyeuristic documentation“. For me the basic idea of Street Photography is to document life in its candid moments.
However, the most exciting aspect of Street Photography is that there is only little that you have to prepare and almost nothing you could plan. It needs a lot of patience, experience and mostly luck to get a decent Street shot. Sometimes this happens, and when it does, the experience is unique – nothing beats that.
What is your most favourite city for taking street pictures? (we will add your video from this city here)
I live in Berlin and therefore I take most of my pictures here in my hometown. However, if you ask what my favorite city for taking street pictures is, it’s undoubtedly New York City. NYC feels like it was built as a giant stage for Street Photography. You got everything you need there: Fantastic light, incredible architecture and lots and lots of crazy people everywhere. In NYC every street corner is perfect for taking street pictures, you just have to wait until something happens. For me NYC is the capital of Street Photography. If I had the time and the money I would visit NYC four times a year.
What next cities do you plan to shoot?
Unfortunately I don’t have that much time for travels nowadays as I work full-time and also want to spend time with my family. Apart from this, I would be interested in what the Middle East has to offer. Fellow photographer Alex Magedler recently published a great series from Iran (Link to http://www.seconds2real.com/photographer/alex-magedler/3/), I would love to spend some time there. Realistically speaking, i don’t think I will make it there in the foreseeable future but Istanbul also seems to be interesting place and it’s far more easier to get there.
Street Photography – color or b/w photography? What do you prefer and why?
I shoot b/w using Kodak Tri-X almost without exception. As i have been shooting b/w for many years now, i have learnt by the time how the things I see with my naked eye will look in a b/w picture. At this point, the simplicity of black and white really helps to focus on the important stuff without getting distracted. I believe the same also applies to the viewer. In addition I would like to add a quote by german photographer Harald Hauswald (Link to http://www.harald-hauswald.de) which I also found to be true: „Colour is somehow final, in contrast to which black-and-white photography is open and the viewer can use his imagination and think the photo to an end.“
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with using color in Street Photography. I am a big fan of Street Photographers like Peter Eavis (Link to http://www.flickr.com/photos/eavis) or Siegfried Hansen (Link to http://www.siegfried-hansen.de) who are both using color most of the time. I have started several attempts in the past to use color by myself but all of these attempts have failed. It seems like color is just not down my alley.
Did you have any problems with people don’t wanna be photographed?
I know that this question is often discussed in flickr groups and blogs. Personally I never had a single problem with people I took pictures of. I am using a small camera that no one takes serious. I guess most of the time people tend to think I take pictures of something behind them or that I am just a poor guy with grandpas old camera. If someone needs an advice on this topic, I highly recommend to read Jim O’Connell post (Link to http://www.flickr.com/groups/onthestreet/discuss/72157603551870243/page2/#comment72157603584256392 Jim O’Connell) on flickr.
You are member of seconds2real can you tell us something about this group?
Seconds2Real (Link to http://www.seconds2real.com) was founded by Ronny Künniger (Link to http://www.kuenniger.com) about 2 years ago. Seconds2Real is a group of photographers from Austria, Germany, Greek and the UK that share a common passion for Street Photography.
At Seconds2Real we don’t aim to become the next MAGNUM – none of the members is a full-time photographer. This group is all about exchanging information and experience on all aspects of Street Photography. In addition, we work on some joint projects like books (Link to http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/424176), exhibitions and our (soon to be relaunched) website.
What may differentiate Seconds2Real from similar groups, is the fact that this group is not just another online project. We know each other in person and at least once a year, we have a kind of group gathering, each time in a different city. Such a meeting typically consists of (drinking beer), exchanging prints and experiences, some shooting and most important, long discussions about cameras and other gear (mostly Leica M vs. Hexar RF).
(Video from our last meet-up: http://www.youtube.com/user/SECONDStoREAL#p/a/u/0/KJITsSwCEEs)
For readers with an interest in Street Photography, i highly recommend to check out the Seconds2Real flickr group (Link to http://www.flickr.com/groups/seconds2real). Since its founding it has become a truly unique source for street photography on flickr. Pictures in this group are not only by Seconds2Real members, however the super-strict selection of incoming submissions is done by us.
What camera and lenses do you use?
I own quite a bunch of analog cameras and lenses, mostly Leica, Makina or Nikon (plus a digital LX-3 for pictures of the kids).
Almost all of my Street Photography is done with my 20 year old Leica M6 and the Summicron 35mm ASPH. Over the years I have learnt to operate this camera without having to think about. For me the M6 is the perfect camera, especially for Street Photography, or as Ken Rockwell says: „A camera that gets out of the way of making photographs.“ I have to admit though that the M9 also looks very nice and that I read Steve Huff’s reviews about the M9 very carefully. This doesn’t mean I will switch to digital any time soon, but at least it’s good to know that with the M9 there’s finally a decent digital camera available.
As most Street photographers I use the lens at it’s hyperfocal distance. For those not familiar with hyperfocal focusing: The basic idea is to take advantage of the depth of field to achieve the greatest amount of apparent focus. With a 35mm lens and by using an opening like f/8 or f/11, depth of field will extend from the close foreground to a point (hopefully) behind the subject, thereby achieving acceptably sharp focus throughout the relevant parts of the image. The main advantage is that you can take a picture almost in a split-second. As you don’t have to focus, all you have to take care of is to compose the frame and to press the shutter when the moment is right. That’s actually done a lot easier than explaining it 😉
There is a lot of people just starting with Street Photography, can you recommend them something for better start?
I don’t think I am the right person to give advice on this, but i’ll summarize what worked for me.
– A good way to start Street Photography is to attend public events or to visit touristic spots. Photographers are expected at these types of events or places and no one will bother you when taking pictures.
– Use a prime wide angle lens, something between 24mm and 35mm.
– If you want to use hyperfocal focusing a lens with a depth of field scale marked on it will help (like most Rangefinder lenses have).
– Learn to get close to the subject. Don’t make yourself think that a picture of someone’s back will look good – this is usually not the case.
– Find places with lots of people, know the times when they are present and the light is good.
– Make sure to read „Ways of working“ at 2POINT8 (Link to http://2point8.whileseated.org/wow-footer/)
– Most important: As a Street photographer you will do a lot of walking so you better buy good shoes.